Canada has one of the most complex – but also permissive – regulatory climates for marketed health products.
According to a 2011 Ipsos Reid survey, 73% of Canadians use natural health products on a regular basis. According to Statistics Canada, the functional food and natural health products market in Canada is roughly $16.4 billion annually ($670M based on imports). 27.9% of natural health product (nhp) establishments in Canada sold direct to retailer, while 10.8% were sold online (Statistics Canada, 2011). Canadians are recognized internationally for their environmentalism and healthy lifestyle preferences, and the mean total household income for Canadians in 2013 was $76,550 CAD. The strong middle class, health culture, and proximity to the United States (influence and trade) make Canada a prime market for the sale of health products.
Canada’s food and health care sector is governed by Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Health Canada is responsible for establishing policies, regulations and standards relating to safe and high quality food and health care products. The CFIA is responsible for enforcing food policies and regulations developed by Health Canada.
Health Canada ensures safe and effective drugs and health products. Health Canada is responsible for compliance monitoring and enforcement activities with the exception of food. The Health Products and Food Branch Inspectorate (HPFBI) is the directorate within Health Canada that is responsible for compliance monitoring for drugs (human and veterinary), medical devices and natural health products.
The CFIA enforces federal food safety regulations for both domestic and imported food. Over the coming years, the CFIA will work to develop new regulations to support product traceability, record keeping, importation and control of pathogens in the food supply. This will strengthen oversight of food commodities being traded inter-provincially or internationally.
The Canada Border Services Agency is responsible for enforcement as it relates to the initial import inspection services performed at airports and other Canadian border points. Imported health products tend to receive a higher degree of enforcement for compliance than domestically manufactured products.